Using custom shooting modes to change from flash to ambient light

Custom shooting modes are found on many advanced EOS cameras, but in my training experience I rarely find photographers making use of them. For the recent Oxford Fashion Week model casting sessions I made use of the custom shooting mode on the EOS 5D Mark III to rapidly switch between shooting with flash and shooting with ambient light only, and then back to flash.

Custom shooting modes take a snapshot of the settings you have configured in your camera and store them for instant recall just be turning the mode dial. Since the EOS 5D Mark III the custom shooting modes can be configured to automatically update and I always choose to have mine do so.

Taking the Oxford Fashion Week as an example;

Shooting with flash

I was using an ST-E3-RT on the camera to control a Speedlite 600EX-RT off-camera in E-TTL mode. Having been tasked with capturing a single full-length picture of each model at the casting I needed to be consistent and deliver on each shot. The models walked towards the casting directors and then turned to their right and posed for me to take the shot. Given the position of the models was mostly the same I opted for manual exposure on the camera, with ISO 1250 since it was pretty dark. As the day went on I pushed the ISO some more to help the room still be a component of the picture. Shutter speed and aperture were chosen to help give me fast flash recycling and enough ambient light in the pictures.

Shooting with ambient light

Once the models had posed for me they then turned and in most cases talked with the casting directors. Here I was not in the right place for the off-camera flash to cover these moments, but wanted to needed to capture them. This meant I had to switch off the flash, up the ISO, open the aperture and switch to a faster continuous shooting drive mode. In practice I used Aperture Priority mode (Av) and ISO 6400 or more plus a fairly wide open aperture. However once the model had finished it was time quickly for pictures of the next candidate and these needed to be with flash.

Custom shooting modes & flash settings

 

I know that it’s not possible to store whole flash set-ups in the custom shooting modes, but as you can see in the images above it is possible to store flash disabled or enabled, which is set in the Speedlite control menu.

To preset the settings for registering as a custom shooting mode I did the following;

  1. Set the camera to Av mode on the mode dial
  2. Set the flash to disabled in the camera’s Speedlite control menu
  3. Set ISO 6400
  4. Set the aperture to f/4
  5. Set the drive mode to continuous high speed shooting
  6. Registered the settings as C1

Once this was completed I reset the camera to manual exposure mode on the mode dial and reactivated the flash in the camera Speedlite control menu. Then I slowed down the drive mode, lowered the ISO, set the shutter speed and aperture.

 

The result, moving the camera mode dial from M two steps round the C1 switched me from flash to ambient light photography, and turning it back reversed the settings. Also since the custom modes were auto updating the stored settings, I ended up raising the ISO in the Av mode and the elevated ISO was then stored ready for the next time I used the C1 setting.

Often I have C3 on the EOS 5D Mark III preset for video shooting, so C1 and C2 are free for configuring to the tasks at hand.

I’m happy to say I’m going to be shooting most of the Oxford Fashion Week shows next week from Wednesday onwards.

See some of the shots from the casting sessions in my other posts by clicking on the photos below.

 

Oxford Fashion Week model casting

Oxford Fashion Week model casting